The Washington Post
Friday, December 3, 2004; Page A28

Pinochet Loses Immunity in '74 Slaying


SANTIAGO, Chile, Dec. 2 -- A Chilean court Thursday stripped the country's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, of immunity from prosecution in the 1974 assassination of a rival Chilean general who was killed by a car bomb in Argentina.

The Santiago Appeals Court has removed Pinochet's automatic immunity in two other cases, but the retired general, 89, has eluded trial on grounds of poor mental health.

Gen. Carlos Prats, who was commander of the army before Pinochet took power in a 1973 coup, was living in exile in Buenos Aires when he and his wife were killed. Prats was seen as a potential political threat to Pinochet, who ruthlessly removed all opposition.

More than 3,000 people died or disappeared while Pinochet led the military government from 1973 to 1990, but he has never been convicted in any of the dozens of human rights cases against him.

"We will now take the legal steps to make him face the proof we have against him," said Pamela Pereira, an attorney for the Prats family. Chile's Supreme Court has upheld the appeals court's immunity rulings in the two previous Pinochet cases.

Enrique Arancibia, a former Chilean spy, is serving a life sentence in Argentina for participating in the assassination of Prats, a highly regarded officer and political moderate who remained influential while in exile.

The army, led by Pinochet, overthew the socialist government of President Salvador Allende. Pinochet established a dictatorship and remained in power until democracy was restored.

© 2004